Lehi and his sons; Mosiah and his sons; Alma and Alma the Younger; Mormon and Moroni. The Book of Mormon is actually nothing more than a rich, engaging story of fathers teaching their sons the gospel of Jesus Christ that spans several centuries. Every father had a son that had either rejected the good news of the atonement or would be facing life in a world drenched in sin and evil (Moroni). In either case, these wise fathers participated in the pattern of how God works- He takes bad things and turns them into good, while the adversary takes good things and turns them into bad.
In modern times, the organization and culture of the LDS church provides well-meaning fathers with multiple opportunities to share the gospel with their sons through milestones and rites of passage, which are almost inevitably tied to certain ages. When I baptized my son, confirmed him a member of the church, and blessed him to receive the Holy Ghost when he turned 8, we discussed the basics of the plan of salvation and he passed into a life of accountability. When he turned 12 years old and I ordained him to the office of a deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood, we had more precious father-and-son moments as I taught him his duties and responsibilities, and he passed into a life of service to others. We strengthened the patriarchal bond spending time together home teaching and collecting fast offerings.
When he turned 18 I ordained him an elder, and at 19 we sent him off on a mission. These rites of passage included direct and honest talks about standards, morals, beliefs, and testimonies. I was both relieved and inspired when he told the congregation in his home ward just before leaving that he had decided to serve a mission not because his parents told him to (although we did), but because he knew in his heart it was the right thing to do- or something like that. He left as an anxious teenager and returned to us a man of faith and conviction.
After returning to BYU-Idaho to prepare to assume the full mantle of adulthood as a husband, father, and breadwinner, he met the wife of his eternities, and at age 24 he was sealed to her in the Salt Lake Temple. This final rite of passage afforded me another opportunity to instruct my son on the blessings and landmines of love and married life.
However, circumstances and the political climate in the People’s Republic of America created another rite of passage- at age 26, he was forced to sign up for semi-socialized medical insurance via the Obamacare marketplace. Although we raised him on principles of providing care to the poor and the needy through his own free will and choice, we also taught him to honor and obey the law, and the law demanded that he acquire medical insurance or face a fine at tax time. According to the divine pattern of turning bad things into good, we held several in-depth discussions on how insurance works, and motivations for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and I dispensed decision making advice on choosing the right plan for his stage of life. God had transformed the distasteful task of signing up for subsidized healthcare into the productive and memorable process of engaging my adult son on critical family and financial issues.